Comedy is supposed to be an art form. Firstly, Adam Sandler is not a bad actor. He is actually a pretty great actor (even if the only character in his acting vocabulary is “angry everyman”). When used correctly, Adam Sandler’s anger-driven comedy can be both relatable and cathartic. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) was not a fluke; Sandler’s performance was similar to many of his other roles, the difference was that director Paul Thomas Anderson knew how to show him as a misunderstood and even sympathetic character. However, Sandler is not a good writer of comedy. Jack and Jill has little to no jokes, instead it is full of gags. An example of a joke is the setup and payoff, the comedy comes from what the audience knows and the characters don’t. Unfortunately, the few actual funny moments of the film are diluted by gags and shock comedy. Which would be fine if it didn’t become predictable as quickly as it did. For a gag to work there has to be some sort of spontaneity, something unexpected that catches the audience off-guard.
Lazy filmmaking is bad filmmaking. When the gags stop working, Sandler turns to shock comedy to catch the audience off guard. While I appreciate Sandler’s restraint from dick and fart jokes, there was still plenty of low-brow jokes to make the film slightly uncomfortable. Among fat and disabled/elderly jokes, racism is the most blatant in Jack and Jill. I’m not totally against racist jokes (although if a joke is truly funny it shouldn’t need race to be a component), however I am absolutely against lazy racist jokes; there is literally a “Mexican smuggled across the border” joke in here! I’m also not against low-brow comedy, I believe when done right it can be fantastic, Sandler’s Happy Gilmore is still a favorite of mine because at the center of it is a simple fantasy of the working-man beating a silver-spooned snob. Jack and Jill has no such heart (though it tries to, by shoe-horning footage of twins to bookend the film).
This doesn’t deserve to be a movie. My biggest issue with the film however, is just how apparent it is that everyone involved doesn’t care. The motivations behind a film are often what shapes the entire process. I have absolutely no problem with product placement, in fact, I will even argue for it, as long as it does not detract from the film. However, when the film’s sole purpose is to sell me things without any kind of redeeming artistic merit, I feel cheated. Jack and Jill is more interested in selling coke and donuts than storytelling, which is disingenuous and even insulting to the integrity of cinema. Being a fan of film, I can endure and enjoy even the worst of what the medium has to offer, so long as I feel the filmmakers had the best intentions. There is admiration to be found in filmmakers who make bad films with an unflinching passion. Jack and Jill is not one of those films.